Today is the day multiplied millions of Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It was 2,000 years ago when Jesus was born in Bethlehem in fulfilment of what the Bible claims to be manifold prophecies of the coming Messiah from the Old Testament. It's one of the most holy celebrations in the Christian faith, next to Easter, the weekend of Christ's death and resurrection.

It occurred at the time for taxation as proclaimed by Caesar Augustus, with Israel under the umbrella of the Roman empire. The entire then-known world was under Caesar's rule, and families in Israel had to make a pilgrimage to their hometowns and render their taxes. 

Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, in northern Israel, but originally heralded from Bethlehem, a town six miles south of Jerusalem, the hometown of Israel's great King David, their family ancestor.

Old Testament prophecies outlined the coming forth of a king from Bethlehem, though the community might have been the smallest among all the cities of Israel. The name Bethlehem, means "House of Bread" in Hebrew. When Jesus began His three-and-a-half-year ministry, He explained how He was the Bread of Life, who would come and restore the eternal life that Adam and Eve, the first humans created, forfeited through their disobedience to God in the Garden of Eden. 

Christians also notice how the shepherds who were watching their flocks by night, and saw angels proclaiming the birth of the Saviour in Bethlehem, were told that they'd see a sign. A virgin had conceived and brought forth a child, and their sign would be to see that child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger -- a food trough for cattle. Shepherds would understand the meaning of seeing the Bread of Life born in a town called the "House of Bread," laying in a feeding trough for cattle to feed.

Due to the crowds of people at Bethlehem for the taxation, no room in the local inn was available for the soon-to-be parents, Mary and Joseph. The innkeeper offered them his barn where the baby was born and laid in that manger.

Something else about that child triggered a thought in the eyes of the shepherds. According to Hebrew culture, Bethlehem was not only the bread basket for Israel at that time, but the place where sheep were raised for sacrifices during the Hebrew Passover. And for shepherds to, not only see the baby lying in a manger, but also wrapped in swaddling clothes, they recognized something else. Newborn lambs were wrapped in swaddling clothes, to be kept as safe as possible so that they might remain without flaw for the times ahead when they would be sacrificed. Shepherds would get the inkling of this baby being the Lamb of God whose life would be given to save man from sin by dying as mankind's sacrifice, to restore the relationship between Heaven and Earth.

It was also at that time that a star shone in the east, Babylonian region where wise men likely recalled another prophecy of how the King would come whose star would indicate his coming.  Daniel was a Hebrew who had been taken in captivity with the entire nation six centuries before this. And Daniel was a prophet who rose to prominence during that captivity, and would have shared with them a more ancient prophecy during Israel's Exodus out of Egypt under Moses, about a "star" coming out of the nation of Israel, along with a sceptre. Upon seeing the star, they knew Israel's King was born, and travelled to pay homage and render gifts to him.

From wise men, to shepherds, and even angels, three witnesses proclaimed the birth of the One whom Christians believe is the Messiah, not only for Israel, but for the whole world. 

The Christian church believes that Jesus was the prophesied Son of God, whose Father was God Almighty, Himself, manifest in His human flesh; The way to God, and the bread of Life for the world. To believe in Him as man's access to God, come out of a lifestyle sinful living, and serve Him to spread His love and kindness throughout the world, is taught in Biblical Scripture to be the means to everlasting life through faith. They teach that nobody can make themselves good enough to enjoy Heaven with God, but that Jesus' goodness is granted to us as our means of being right in God's eyes. In other words, Jesus' death and resurrection did what makes God pleased with us, if we believe and accept it.

As the Bible recorded the songs of angels on that night so long ago, peace on Earth and goodwill to all men!


In response to Canada's Online News Act and Meta (Facebook and Instagram) removing access to local news from their platforms, PortageOnline encourages you to get your news directly from your trusted source by bookmarking this page and downloading the PortageOnline app.

Music video by Portage resident Alfred MacLaren: